Edit for Dead Words: Lesson 1

On Friday, we did another Vocabulary Spectrum activity.  I started out by telling my fourth graders that I read the stories in their writer's notebooks, and although they all had different, interesting experiences, most of them described them the same way: they were "good."

So I told the kids to be more clear, we have got to get rid of "good," and for that matter, let's get rid of "good's" opposite, "bad."

For each group (of 4 kids) I picked one person to write "good" words, and another to write "bad" words.  I set 3 minutes on my timer (Kitchen Timer, an Android app for my phone, which crows like a rooster as an alarm).  The kids in each group told the note taker their ideas for "good" words.  When the time was up, they got another 3 minutes to come up with words for "bad." 

At that point, the kids with more limited vocabularies were able to hear words they are not as used to using, so no one was going to be put on the spot if I called on them.  So I "pulled sticks," (like pulling names out of a hat, but instead I use the sticks from the lunch count that they put into cups) and asked every kid to give me a word.  I wrote each word on a (large, 3 by 5) Post It note, had them hold them, and go to the front of the room.  Then I asked the kids to line up according to degree.  "The MOST good on this side, and the MOST bad on that side."

There was some disagreement about where to stand, but as long as it bred discussion and reasoning, not personal attacks, I encouraged the kids to explain their reasoning to each other (and rock, paper scissor as a last resort).  Once most of the kids had decided where to stand, I asked them to read their word with emotion going down the line.

To reinforce the activity, the next day's Morning Work was to choose from the words they worked with and switch for "good" and "bad" within their stories.  It was a quick, simple revision activity that even the most reticent/wants-to-be-done-the-first-time kid can handle!

This activity is part of my Word Choice Activities product.  Next week I'll show you more about revising for word choice by tying our lesson on dialogue to choosing more specific words for "said."  Thinking about precise language will be a stepping stone for later on when we craft power sentences and create mood in our stories.  Some of these activities involve moving around, others involve art, some involve acting.  By switching it up, I consider the learning preferences of all my students because my ultimate goal is to help my students improve their communication skills.

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